One of the worst feelings in the world is allowing someone you love to leave this Earth without saying what you wanted and needed to say to them or without doing what you wanted to do with and for them. I was revisited by this feeling last week when I received word that my great aunt Maudie Mae (my grandfather’s sister) had passed away. For years, I said that I wanted to fly out to Berkely, CA where Aunt Maudie Mae lived so I could video record her as she talked about our family and her life. The video was to be part of a family documentary of sorts to pass down our family history to future generations. I love hearing the elders’ stories of their past. From their youth to the present. How they lived. What they did. What they believed. How they thought. This video was to also include my grandmother and great uncle as well. But now they (my grandmother, grandfather, and their siblings) are all gone…and I will never have that chance again. I did not commit to the project and missed my opportunities. I regret that. But that regret pales in comparison to the pleasure of knowing them and the memories I have.
My Aunt Maudie Mae. A good woman. Kind, devoted, loving, always smiling. Everyone loved her and as far as I know, no one had a negative word to say about her. One of my earliest and favorite memories of her was when I was a kid and she came to visit my grandmother for a couple of weeks. I remember she was very kind and very sweet. A bright smile. A kind voice. A loving demeanor. I would see her a few times here and there over the years, mainly at funerals (unfortunately). The last time I saw Aunt Maudie Mae was at our family reunion in Louisiana this past July. Even in her 90’s she looked great and had a sharp memory. She remembered a lot of details from her childhood in the country and the people she grew up with and would tell you what you wanted to know at the drop of a hat. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to at least see her, speak with her, and hug her one last time.
I love the elders of my family and the community I grew up in. These are the people who were responsible for raising me and teaching me a lot of different things in my youth. It is from them that I learned to respect and do right by others. They also instilled in me the knowledge and respect for my Creator. I treasure their mannerisms and many of their old-fashioned ways…ways and mannerisms that seem to die along with them.
Another one of the elders of the small town I grew up in who we called ‘Mr. Book’ passed away earlier this week as well. Mr. Book was a deacon at the church I grew up in. I also remember him being one of the school bus drivers. Mr. Book was a good man. He had his ways and could rub folks the wrong way at times, but deep down he really was a good man. And he LOVED to sing. His signature song was ‘I’m Pressing On’. You knew that if he stood up to say a few words about anything, then that song was sure to follow. He had a couple other songs, but Pressing On was the main one.
I remember my junior year of high school Mr. Book wanted to start a male gospel quintet. So, he recruited me and a couple of friends who could sing and play instruments. He said “I’m gonna take you to California. Put some money in your pockets.” Hell, that was enough for me. When do we start?
So, we got together for a rehearsal. We practiced a couple of Mr. Book’s signature ‘hits’, but never really learned them. He sang them and we were to just somehow pick everything up. My friends and I recommended a few songs, but we spent more time lollygagging and playing around than actually practicing. That was our first and last rehearsal. When the time came for next week’s rehearsal, we hid from Mr. Book. I remember some of us walking around the neighborhood that day and spotting him. We hid in a ditch, then ran home. I begged my mom that if he came by to tell him I’m not home. But, he never came by. I saw him at church the following Sunday. He smiled and patted me on the head (messing up my freshly brushed hair!!) and didn’t mention it. He knew what the deal was, but didn’t force the issue. That’s a fond memory of him. One of many. He will be missed.
It’s times like these that make me value my own time even more. My friends, let’s value our time and the time of others. Right NOW is all we have. And we should remember to be thankful for every day and every moment.
Farewell, Aunt Maudie Mae. They don’t make ’em like you anymore. You were beautiful and kind. The ideal woman. Thank you for your love and your wisdom. Farewell, Mr. Book. It was a pleasure knowing you. Thank you for your lessons. You no longer have to press on. Well done, sir. Thanks, again.
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